Sunday, May 13, 2012

Houseguests Who Live in Glass Houses...

If you are a Big Brother fan, then you know that the new season starts in less than two months.  Casting is in full swing, and production is beginning to execute their plans for the season.  There are budgets to balance, competitions to construct, and of course the staff and crew must be hired and trained.  Or re-hired, in the case of crew members who have worked on the show for several years.

But this year, there is something new---a competing show on ABC that threatens to disrupt CBS's twelve-year monopoly on the summer reality spectacular (let's just forget about the ill-fated BB9, okay?).  CBS just slapped ABC with a lawsuit for intellectual theft-copyright infringement, theft of trade secrets, etc.

If you watch reality shows, then it is obvious that all of the networks copy each other.  American Idol has spawned countless imitators, as has Project Runway, Top Chef, yadda yadda yadda.

What makes the CBS lawsuit interesting however, is that ABC has hired at least 19 former Big Brother staffers, including three former Big Brother producers, who are each being sued for $500,000.  These producers are named in the lawsuit as Corie Henson (BB6 and BB7), Michael O'Sullivan (BB4 thru BB13) and Kenny Rosen (BB3 thru BB9).  These producers signed non-disclosure agreements in connection with their work on Big Brother.

The lawsuit also names a list of various other employees who held various positions on Big Brother, all of whom signed non-disclosure agreements.

I'm not an attorney and I'm paraphrasing here, but CBS has accused these three former BB Big Cheeses of leaking secrets of the show to ABC as Glass Houses was being developed.  Each defendant was given a copy of the House Guest Manual, the Producer's Binder, and the Story Producer's Handbook, which CBS contends is being used to produce Glass Houses.

I'm all for fair competition, but if what CBS claims is true, the Glass House situation is anything but fair.  I was a member of management of one of America's most-recognized consumer products companies for years, and I signed several non-disclosure agreements during the time I worked there.  I wasn't allowed to disclose any of the company's sensitive information to competitors or to use it for personal gain, or else my ass would be sued like these guys.  I also sign "NDA's" frequently at the request of my clients--it is a standard business practice when you share your proprietary business information with outsiders.  You have to trust, and also to protect.

I must admit that I hadn't even heard of Glass Houses until Rob Cesternino mentioned it on one of his podcasts.  ABC must promote it on one of the shows I don't watch like Dancing with the Stars, and I'm sure they will push it during the upcoming (tired) season of The Bachelorette.  So this was all a big surprise to me.  Glass Houses plans to get the jump on Big Brother by premiering on June 18th, and wrapping up in early August.

Will that still happen?  As best I can tell, CBS isn't trying to stop Glass Houses from airing, they just want them to stop using information obtained illegally from Big Brother.  You can read the entire 34 page lawsuit at this link, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

One thing is for sure:  the stress of this situation is sure to impact the pre-production process for Big Brother 14.  This could help or hurt this year's show, depending on how they react.  Maybe the threat of impending competition will raise their game. 

It's really all about the casting, isn't it?  Would you watch another summer of Lawons and Adams?

We'll know CBS is really in trouble if Jeff and Jordan show up in the Glass House, huh?